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Plastic waste in Asia - disposal and greed for money

Asia has the biggest plastic waste problem

Plastic waste in the sea and the environment is the result of a lack of environmental awareness in all countries around the world. However, in order to solve or reduce the massive problem of plastic waste in the environment and in the sea, we need to tackle the causes in the countries where the largest proportion of plastic waste ends up in the oceans. The study THE NEW PLASTIC ECONOMY - RETHINKING THE FUTURE OF PLASTICS₁ by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation provides a good overview of the origin of plastic waste in the oceans. According to the study, America and Europe (40%) and Asia (45%) account for the largest share of global plastic production. However, America and Europe only contribute 2% to global marine plastic litter. Instead, 82% of marine plastic litter is attributable to Asian countries. This article is not about finding a culprit for the Plastic waste in the environment and especially in the sea, but to find a solution to one of the two biggest environmental problems on our planet. Today you can find out why Asia has such a huge plastic waste problem and how it can be solved.

Plastic waste in the sea - shares of the continents
Plastic waste in the sea, 82% are attributable to Asian countries

5 Asian countries account for 60% of the world's plastic waste in the sea

To paint a quick picture: There is currently around 1 kg of plastic for every 3 kg of fish in the sea. Several global studies show that China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand have the largest share of plastic waste in the sea. But why is pollution from Asian countries particularly high? It's actually quite logical: consumption in Asian countries is growing rapidly and following the Western model. The demand for new items is increasing as more money is available due to the booming economy. So far so good. With this strong economic growth, only one of the most important systems is not keeping pace: the waste disposal system. An issue that only entails costs and at first glance may seem unproblematic. Dubai immediately springs to mind as an example. 500,000 people work there for a pittance, but new construction projects are announced every week. Profit comes first. But Dubai is more appearance than reality. Skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, but the sewage system here has not been adapted in parallel with huge construction projects. Every day, hundreds of trucks transport faeces from the city to the sewage treatment plants. What applies to Dubai also applies to Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand. And this is precisely where the solution to the plastic waste problem must be found, even if the industry has little interest in disposing of plastic waste due to the high costs.

Often still little insight from Asian countries

As a result, Asian countries rarely agree to new agreements on climate change or the plastic waste problem and instead insist on their right to development. However, if development continues to be based solely on economic aspects, the gap between the economic boom and the waste disposal system will widen with each passing day. Only about 40% of plastic waste is collected in the existing, inadequate disposal systems in Asia. Due to the inadequate options for disposing of the waste, the majority ends up in the sea via detours (wind, rivers, etc.). In 2012, a giraffe died in an Indonesian zoo because it had over 20 kg of plastic in its stomach. So it is by no means just the oceans that are affected; there is also a huge plastic waste problem on land, which is due on the one hand to inadequate disposal systems and on the other to the personal attitude of each individual.

Plastic waste in the Asian environment - legal changes, fees and bans are needed

Plastic waste in the environment and the sea (Asia)
A cow in plastic waste © By Stefan Dietrich

Many garbage collectors are out and about to make a living from plastic waste. In Asia, there is so much waste in the environment that the collectors are already concentrating only on the valuable waste (such as returnable bottles). The profit motive is paramount. What drives the deposit collectors (who earn between €0.50 and €5) is purely a matter of survival, is pure ignorance on the part of the industry. As you can see in the Interview with Dr. Bernhard Bauske from WWF As you may have already read, we are fighting for industrial companies in Asia to become responsible for the disposal of the plastic they put into circulation. However, it is no wonder that this is not met with much enthusiasm by the industry due to the high disposal costs. Gradually, but still far too slowly, the laws are being adapted, bans imposed and fees increased. Since the beginning of 2016, the equivalent of around 33 cents has been charged for a plastic bag in 23 Asian cities. Even if this fee has had a major effect on the consumption of plastic bags, this decision initially only affects citizens. China has had a ban on thin plastic bags and a high fee for thicker plastic bags since 2008. According to a study by the University of Gothenburg, the consumption of plastic bags in China has fallen by half since then.

How can we reduce plastic waste in Asia?

In my opinion, industrial companies must be held accountable and made responsible for the disposal of the plastic waste they put into circulation. In this way, a rethink of the packaging materials chosen would happen very quickly. At the moment, plastic is simply the cheapest material, so there is no reason for the industry to switch from plastic to sustainable and organic packaging.

What experiences have you had with plastic waste? Just write me an email or a comment. Next week I will be for some time in Sri Lankato take a closer look at the plastic problem in Asia.

Best regards,

CareElite Christoph

PS: In Sri Lanka I got a personal impression of plastic waste in Asia. Read the blog article now My travel experiences in Sri Lanka and see what I was allowed/needed to experience there. If you are also an environmentally conscious person, then step now our Facebook group for worldwide plastic waste CleanUps with. Thank you for your support!


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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

2 thoughts on “Asien hat das größte Plastikmüll Problem”

  1. And of course the numerous European tourists plus shipped plastic waste from Europe do not contribute at all to the conditions in Asia...
    Pretty Eurocentric written and also sounds like white saviour complex.

    1. Hi Sarah! It's more about passing on our knowledge about the disposal and avoidance of plastic waste to countries in Southeast Asia as quickly as possible. This article is not meant to absolve us - especially because most of our waste from Germany is shipped to Asia.
      The article is already a bit older - I will incorporate this in a timely manner and justify it more clearly.
      Thanks for your feedback and best regards

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